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5 US Locations for Spotting Rare Birds

Catching sight of a rare bird is a thrill like no other. Regardless of if you are a casual birdwatcher or an expert in the field, spotting a rare bird in the wild will make you appreciate the hobby on a whole new level. You will boost the odds that you catch sight of a rare bird if you are looking in the right places. There are many locations across the US that are great for birdwatching. However, if you’re looking for rare birds and a particularly special birdwatching experience, we recommend trying uncommon locations with seasonal and rare bird-watching opportunities. Here are five of the best US locations for birdwatching.

Rio Grande Valley, Texas

Expert birdwatchers routinely recommend traveling to the southern tip of Texas for some of the best chances to catch a glimpse of rare creatures in flight. There are a number of birds that you can find in this corner of the nation. Species to keep an eye out for including the Gray Hawk, Green Jay, and Clay-colored Thrush.


The popular Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to check out the birds. The refuge features 12 miles of trails that visitors can traverse in the hopes of spotting a rare bird. The Nature Tram travels seven miles over 90 minutes for those who do not want to hike. Or you can visit the nearby Quinta Mazatlan estate in McAllen. The 15 acres of gardens at this estate are home to a variety of bird species.


While you’re not looking for birds in Texas, you can spend your time checking out the other attractions the Rio Grande Valley has to offer. Texas is home to some of the best BBQ and Tex Mex food in the US. While you are visiting the state, be sure you check out the cities, try the food, and visit the other natural areas Texas has to offer. In the west of Texas, you can camp at Big Bend National park. Big Bend is a national park and designated dark zone, which means at night you can see the Milky Way above you. Big Bend is another great bird-watching location as well as it is home to several species of owl native to the area. 

Southeastern Arizona

The desert landscape of southeastern Arizona is an interesting place to look for rare birds. The remote areas may take a little effort to get to, but you will likely be rewarded with seeing various species of birds in their natural habitats.


A good place to call home base is the region just to the southeast of Tucson. Here you will find hummingbirds, Elf Owls, and more. Other areas to consider include Saguaro National Park and Cave Creek Canyon. Be sure to bring plenty of sunflower seeds for birds to attract more critters.


Arizona offers many other natural areas that you can check out while on your trip as well. When you’re not birdwatching, you can check out the cities and food the state has to offer. You can also check out Patagonia, which is a very small town in Arizona, but home to many natural areas. There’s a lake and hummingbird preserve in Patagonia that you and other bird enthusiasts will surely enjoy exploring. Arizona is full of wildlife and several nature preserves that offer perfect opportunities for you to spot rare birds and animals of all sorts. Be sure to always pack plenty of water when exploring the state, as it is particularly arid during most of the year. Always carry a CPR tracker of some sort so you can find your way back if you go on one of the many unmarked hiking paths found across the state. 

New York City

While it may seem like an unconventional place to look for birds, New York City is actually a haven for birdwatchers. This is because the city is situated right in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway, a common bird migration route. The city’s diverse landscape also features marshes and forested areas, making it an easy place for birds to rest during their migration periods. Though NYC may not seem like the best place to reconnect with nature, the city actually offers many opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. There area also some great New York State parks and natural areas outside of the city. 


Not surprisingly, the best place to birdwatch in the Big Apple is in the famed Central Park. This vast urban park features a microcosm of bird habitats, including sprawling meadows, forest areas, water features, and more. Or head to Queens to visit the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Covering over 9,000 acres, this refuge is an excellent place to look for waterfowl.


While staying in New York City, there are endless activities for you to do in your non-bird time. New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the US. Because of this, they have an endless variety of food options. NYC also has a huge arts and culture scene that you can explore for days. Plan a trip to NYC this fall to see the birds migrating and check out all the fun stuff this city has to offer. You can even rent an apartment in a high rise to get a great view of the park and the sky!

California Coast

Although most people head out to the Pacific Coast Highway to check out the stunning scenery, the area is also an outstanding place to watch for the birds. The birdwatching is particularly memorable along the coastline just north of the San Francisco Bay area. While the birds are visible all year long, winter is an especially good time to grab your binoculars to see what you can spot.


Point Reyes National Seashore is a popular place to set up for the day to check out the birds. A diverse ecosystem attracts a variety of species. At Point Reyes, you may even spot the threatened Northern Spotted Owl and the Snowy Plover. As a bonus, you may also see the gray whales out in the Pacific if you visit during the migration season of January through April.


If you’re planning a road trip up the California coast, you have to make sure you go both camping and stay in some cities along the way. California is a massive and diverse state with much to offer both man-made and natural. Check out the beautiful coastline, stay in LA, explore the national and state parks, and be sure to steer clear of the wildfires. 

Coastal Maine

Out on the East Coast, the shores of Maine are another fun place to look for rare birds. All eyes will be on the Atlantic puffins that roost just offshore. You will also be treated to a high chance of spotting a bald eagle. What could be better than indulging in some fresh lobster while gazing out at the birds flying above you over the shores of the Atlantic Ocean?


Just a little off the coast, a trip to Acadia National Park will likely yield good results when looking for rare birds. The park’s Cadillac Mountain is a prime spot to look for eagles and hawks. Park rangers are also on hand to point out species such as the peregrine falcon.


Putting these five destinations on your birdwatching bucket list will increase the chances that you catch sight of that elusive bird.

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